Scum and Villainy in the Procyon Sector

Aleph Key Returns

“Alright my squishy compatriots, sit your asses down,” PIM-Phive’s strangely expressive monotone echoed through the Stardancer’s cargo hold. He gave a clucking beep as Will Corn bumped into his projector table on his way to sit. The table wobbled, and the janky projector flickered as it slid towards the table’s edge. Phive caught it in one hand. His other limb extended towards the floor. A screw appeared at the tip of his middle finger. The finger whirred as it rotated to drive the screw through the table leg, pinning it to the floor. PI-M5’s jury-rig left the table tilted.

Doogie peered up from his tablet. He pointed at the canted screen projected on the cargo hold’s wall and cocked an eyebrow. Phive raised his hand and extended his middle finger. Another screw appeared on its tip. The finger began to rotate, nice and slow. The crew laughed. Doogie rolled his eyes and went back to flipping pages on his tablet. His eyes zipped across each page, absorbing the information at a lightning pace.

Phive looked around. He said, “Sir.” Always with the titles. Always sarcastic. “Where might…”

“Right here.” Dash swept in. He strode up, grabbed the last remaining chair, spun it around so its back faced the robotic briefer and sat. “Lay some knowledge on me. Make it quick and make it clear.” 

PIM-Phive replied, “As you will, Sir. After all, you were there, so this should be…”

“I said quick, not drawn out and sarcastic.”

PI-M5 nodded and started, “Our crew recently earned the trust of one Pasha Lensarr.” Doogie and Dash glanced sideways at each other. “He is the head of the Ashen Knives on Indri, in the Iota system. He has hired us to help him steal from our old friends, the Janus Syndicate. If you remember, last time we were on Warren, we sold the Aleph Key to the Janus Syndicate. According to Lensarr, the key is both map and key. It shows the locations of Precursor weapon caches located throughout the sector. One of them is located on Aketi. Aketi is a jungle planet. It is largely uninhabited due to the incredibly hostile flora and fauna. There is a single, settlement, Base Camp One. The locals call it ‘Hell’s Gate.’ Pasha has hired elements from the Lost Legion to help him ambush the Janus Syndicate at the Precursor cache site. Once he captures the cache, he plans to give over some portion of it to the Lost Legion as payment. The rest, he will take for the Ashen Knives. He plans to take some portion of it and set it up at a hidden pick-up site. From there, we grab the weapons and smuggle them to Pasha Qu’olin on Warren. Any questions?”

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Dash's Diary Entry 004
Job 3 - Dropping the ball

Looking back, we were so close. Basically, we were done. All I had to do was sweet talk the one acolyte that we were leaving, that the boss man had called us over comms and chewed our ass out. We'd walk right out the front door with the prize and them none the wiser. Then Gaius, poor Gaius, dropped the ball. Literally. Well, it was a mask, but the result was the same.

Let's back up some. Last time I left off with us hiding in the bushes near the front door. One acolyte was dead in the mulch at the front entrance of the residence, and a security bot buzzed in the air above the compound. We kept our heads down, and the thing took a hike after a minute. Bullet dodged.

In our due diligence before the job, we'd tracked down the management company for the property, and showed up at their local office posing as residential outfitting vendors. After some chit chat, we made our way to the topic of guest content security, and found out the exact safe type they used in their properties. Bingo. Gaius picked up a hacking rig for the model number, and we were set for popping the safe.

So, back in the yard, we crept into the entry foyer. The place was bathed in the creepy red hue of emergency lighting. Must've felt like home for the Nightspeakers. Gaius couldn't get into the security camera system without a ton of work, so we took the old fashioned method of walking in the front door with a line of bullshit chambered. Immediately, one of the Nightspeaker creeps is in our face. Guy had a lot of attitude for what should've appeared to him as the locals running the show walking into their rented house. And man, was his voice a trip. A deep, bass-like drone that was almost comical, but in the end was spine-tingling creepy. I can't get it out of my head.

I unloaded the BS on him in that condescending security guard tone. You know that, "Sir, I'm going to need you to stand over there while we do our sweep," power trip crap. Despite his weirdness, he bought it. I guess even the creeps have asshole security guys giving them grief. He wanted someone to stay with him, so I gave Doogie the job. He wouldn't have been any help with the safe anyway. Poor kid's eyes were about to pop out of his head though. I hope he doesn't hold a grudge the next time he's patching me up. While we're on the subject, I hope he doesn't have to patch me up ever again.

Gaius and I went on our sweep and low and behold found the dude's room immediately. Wasn't hard to see which one it was. Who else but the pit fighter was a workbench and melee weapon stand outside his room? He even had one of those old fashioned stone grinders for sharpening his blades. Really old school killing there. There's some part of me that's oddly attracted to it. That scares me. Better not go down that rabbit hole.

Gaius pops the room door with the card reader hack, and we find the inside is even weirder. Odd shrines and the like on the floor and wall. Felt like a cross between serial killer and devil worshipper. Save for the scent of cinnamon. That was out of place. 

Forgetting all that, we hop right on to hacking the safe. Gaius gets it open fairly quick, but one of the acolytes comes sauntering down the hall looking for us. Don't these guys know who's in charge here? Our heads up came courtesy of Doogie calling out "ouch you  creep". It wasn't until later that we got the whole run down from him. How he tried to examine one of them, got a little fidgety, and creeped out the creep. That's an achievement right there.

And this is where Gaius drops the mask. I'd hit the thermostat and got the air blowing. As we exit the room and I'm in mid explanation about the noisy vent, the mask thuds onto the spotless carpet between Gaius's legs. I might've laughed had I not had a force pike shoved into my chest.

I'd like to credit my rabbit-like reflexes for avoiding a total evisceration by the pike, but it was mostly the armor. Gaius, to his credit, grabbed the force pike, and I shoved Dolly under the acolytes chin and blew his brains into his helmet. Another dead speaker.

No one came rushing down the hall, nor did Doogie cry out in pain as he was force piked to death. It seemed our cover was still intact. I shifted the pouch on my vest to cover the slash, and holstered Dolly. Time for us to try walking out the front door one more time. Gaius recorded some fake chatter, then played it over his radio as we left the hall. It was a good call, as another acolyte was right there giving us the stink eye. I shook my head at the fake comms, and gave him my best annoyed face. It wasn't hard to find the motivation with my aching, bleeding chest. In our authentic security guard manner, we didn't thank them and walked right out of the house. Then right out of Chiba.

We made for the Stardancer, and collapsed once I closed the ramp. There was still that lingering fear of being found out and caught, but I knew in reality we were good. The mask would be out of our hands soon enough. Now it was time to relax, and let Doogie stiitch us up.

We hit the bar as usual. For whatever reason, the Nightspeaker's voice wouldn't go away. I ended up spending more than I intended, and finally I felt the weight off my shoulders. We were getting a nice payout. It was worth it.

Heard through the grapevine that some unsavory characters had their eye on us now. We officially had heat in Rin. The plan was to drop off the mask in Estari anyway. I was a little sick of Rin at this point, so it all worked out in the end.

We get there, take the tug in through the nebula, and drop the mask off no problem. The tug takes us back out, and we're on our way to the jump point when the radar lights up. Some Maelstorm boat is on our six, launching boarding craft, and demanding we stop. That's when things got interesting…

 

 

 

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Dash's Diary Entry 003
Of all the shit luck...

Alright, got three doubles of that Amerath scotch in me. I'm ready to keep going with this mask job. Although I can't remember where the hell I left off. Something to do with an alarm going off. Sadly, that rings too many bells. I remember now, though.

We caught a break, and were off towards the mansion. All the local security was high tailing it towards the maintenance tunnel. No one looked at us twice with our proper security garb, all thanks to Doogie. He'd convinced a friend of his to let us borrow some outfits from her dad's dry cleaner business. She must think we had the lamest costumes ever for our Halloween party. Anyway, even if we did get stopped in our official garb, Gaius had the fake IDs ready to go. double whammy.

The mansion was more like a fancy bunker. Walls all around, security cameras everywhere. We needed those out of commission. We needed a power outage. Gaius logged into the nearest community terminal using the access codes for our IDs and found a security station a hundred meters away. We walked right up to it, finding two slick customers on duty. One bloke stared at the terminal screen while the other eyeballed the street. We gave him the friendly wave and started a conversation about the craziness happening on the other side of Chiba. Gaius pulled out his PD and went to step around the side and fake a call. In reality, he meant to rig up the power switch to blow in a few minutes.

Well, low and behold, the prick on the terminal was none other than the foudning member of the prick posse who opened fire on us at the gate on our initial insertion. The gung ho son of a bitch recognized us immediately. Though I don't think he believed it at first. It was enough for me to rush him. All I remember as I plugged him with stun rounds was Doogie screaming something about "He was fucking his wife!". I have no idea what that was about, but a gun went off, and shot a clean hole through the roof of the station. I spun around to find the other guy pinned by Gaius while Doogie shoved a syringe into his neck. The guards were down, but more were on the way.

We spotted a trio up the street, heading our way. Gaius and I jumped on that circuit, and killed the lights. Gaius got a nasty shook in the process. I hope he leaves the ship on autopilot for a while when landing. Don't need a sudden twitch.

The lights went out, but the guards had a bead on us. Hoping to distract them, I spared my trick cards across the street, hoping their sheen would catch our pursuers eyes. It didn't do shit, save for wasting time for our escape.

We high-tailed it into the alley as the lights of a security drone appeared overhead. Crap, that was fast. These rich folk don't mess around. Gaius sent pebbles up top, hoping to lead the drone away. It worked, a little too well. Let's just say, Pebbles isn't going to be happy when he is reassembled and booted up.

The distraction worked well enough, and we made it back to the mansion. With the power out, we stood out in the open though complete cloaked in the darkness. Gaius rigged up a false keycard, and the damn thing ended up with admin access for the whole compound. Bet they'll regret cheaping out with the generic door hardware.

This is where it got messy. This is where I might've made a really bad decision. Only time will tell. One of the Nightspeaker Acolytes stood in front of the main entrance. Clad in that black armor, looking like death itself. I'd seen what one of those pikes he held could do to a man. He sure as hell wasn't doing that to any of us. So killed the man. I put one between his eyes, and no one heard a thing. All thanks to Betsy.

On a side note, I thought two cred for Betsy was spaceway robbery. I mean, it's just a silencer. Or so I thought. I couldn't believe how quiet my shot was. The sound of the Acolytes helmet hitting the ground was louder. I have to find the person who made it. There are a true master at their craft.

So, back to my horrible decision. True, the only good Nightspeaker is a dead Nightspeaker. But you sure as hell don't want them on your bad side. If they find out I did it, I'll forever be on their list. It's not a good place to be.

Things were looking great. That's when another security drone began to loiter overhead…

 

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Dash's Diary Entry 002
Greed is a bitch

I hate it when the money is too good to pass up. Every time it happens, I tell myself never again. Then the next job comes, and there I am, lining up to get my ass kicked.

I won't bore you with the details. But getting the info for the job was a bitch. Like one of those nasty Warren feral cats in heat.

Buckle up, here we go:

  1. Mila passed on the job details to us, which she got through Ora.
  2. We go looking for Ora, who got her ass picked up by the Malklaith police forces before we can meet and get more details. Bummer. (Sorry babe, I would've tried to get you out, but walking into a Malklaith police facility wasn't a bright idea at the time.)
  3. Gaius tried hacking into some records, but came up short. Got some computer science classes lined up for him next time we get a break.
  4. Doogie tried smoozing in the local clinic to look over admittance records. Found some consistencies with fight clubs, including curious cases of cauterized knife wounds (Nightspeaker blades anyone?) and a coincidence of the docs who took those cases.
  5. Doogie followed up with each doc. Got nowhere with Basran, other than some medical supplies. Used those supplies to get the fights schedule from Templeton. And, lucky us, this Nightspeaker fellow is on the roster for three fights. Two underground, and one in front of the governor himself.
  6. Myself, I went over the nearest 501 outpost and had a chat with my old buddy Emeril, knowing the Legion always has it's eye on the Nightspeakers. Emeril still chomped on a big ass cigar while whipping up pots of mashed potatoes, string beans, and chicken for the troops. I have no idea how he got away with it, but I'll tell you, those are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had. Maybe it's the ashes. Anyway, I found out the Nightspeaker was looking for the Aleph key as well (what the hell is it with that thing anyway?), and he was housed in the Chiba district. Whether in his own place, or the royal mansion, Emeril didn't know. I ate two platefuls of mashed potatoes and left.

With all that, we decided to go cat burglar and steal the mask from the Nightspeaker's place. We'd go into Chiba as a concierge medical team. We got a name of a local. Mabel Penderyn. I know, can't make that up, right? Should've been a piece of cake. I even ponied up for a nice limo. We'd fit right in.

Well, stupid us, we picked some rich bitch on dialysis, and wouldn't you know, her concierge team had already gone through. I mean, good lord, is everyone abusing drugs and having organ failures these days? We tried pulling something out of our ass – "We're here for the daughter" – and wouldn't you know but the guard knew we were bullshitting. Gaius drove us the hell out of there as the guards got all hot and bothered. The bastards actually opened up on us. Thank god I got the insurance, and the fact that they couldn't shoot straight.

We ditched the ride, and decided to try another way. The guards would be focused outward. If we could just find a way inside…

Gaius, in his neverending infatuation with schematics, had looked up the maintenance plans for the district beforehand. There was a tunnel we could use, just had to bypass a hatch. He said he could do it. Of course, he broke the lock. I helped him rig a temporary solution, and we hightailed out of the tunnel, past a few more guards.

Great, you made it inside, you might be thinking. It wasn't over yet. The rig busted, and an alarm went off. The place turned into a beehive of trigger-happy rent-a-cops. Our only option was to blend right in – and pretend we were new hires for the NIghtspeaker's quarters.

Something went right. Finally. Not only did the guy give us the location, he whipped out his PD (personal device, in case you live under a rock on Shimaya) and showed us how to approach so we don't set off any more alarms. Finally, some professional courtesy.

What happened next? I'll save that for the next one. I need a drink just from writing all this. 

 

 

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A new job...Nightspeakers...great.

Dash said, Message incoming. He sat in the co-pilot’s chair next to Gaius. 

The pilot reached for the intercom, and grunted in pain. He said, You hit it. 

Dash hit the intercom. A download bar flashed onto the computer screen as the message downloaded. He said, Huh. Its from Mila.

Gains smiled, Elbows? We haven’t heard from her in a while. Not since she pulled that scam about getting us the cloud drives. They both chuckled.

Doogie walked in and said, What’s so funny?

Dash replied, Elbows just sent us a message. Without waiting for a reply he opened it. 

A green, holographic head shimmered into view. Hey there boys.  A grating mechanical undertone almost ruined her voice’s boisterous lilt. Her pleasant, but coarse features spread into a wide smile. It was infectious and the whole crew smiled along with her. Got a prop-O-ziz-shun…a job… She held up a greasy hand and snapped her fingers, …for ya. Mila paused for effect. A devilish twinkle lit her eyes. Its a good one too. I mean, it pays good. Its for ‘The Banshee” herself. You guys take care of this, and you will be well into her good graces. She actually gave it to m’captain…Thorn. But, things are too hot on Warren right now for a bunch o’ branded pirates to be traipsing around there. The Banshee wants a Nightspeaker mask. A Nightspeaker is down on Warren right now. Name’s Temujin. He’s apprentice to Oin-rai, but not nearly as dang’rous as that fucker. Still though, he is a Nightspeaker. Rumor is, this Temujin’s a fan of fighting pits. Likes to participate himself. When he fights, he leaves his mask home. I’m not sure why, but, that’s the rumor. I don’t know much more, but a mutual friend of ours might. Dash, look Ora up. She was the one feeding me the info. Get that mask, and you will get a hell of a payday. Thorn will take a small finder’s fee, but the rest is yours.

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Dash's Diary Entry 001
Is it still an ambush if you fuck it up?

If you're reading this, and you're a member of the Colbalt Syndicate kill team that was sent to cargo hold XD-140 on Warren to kill me, Dash of course, Gaius, and Doc, then I have two words for you.

Thank you.

It's not everyday that you thank someone that tried to kill you. But then again, it's not everyday these same people also saved your life.

Surely it was your team that messed up the ambush. Those Malklaith guys on the other kill team were pros. They would've killed us and taken the package no problem. Did you see what they were packing? I'm sure you did, and may have ended up on the business end of one of those heavy repeaters. But that was a real dumb move jumping the trigger too early. You blew the ambush, and didn't even take out any of the other guys. Real sloppy.

As for me, this wasn't the first time some group tried to kill me. But two groups, at the same time, in the same room, that was a first.

Why were we there in the first place? Well, obviously package delivery is one of our crew specialties. The money from Janus was good, great even. That wasn't what tipped me off that something sinister was afoot. I ignored the signs. What were those, you might ask? I'm not revealing my tricks to you here, just in case I'm still alive.

Once shots were fired, it was a mad dash to get the hell out of there. Pretty sure Gaius saved my ass a few times, and Doc too. Got my armor all shot up along the way. We managed to knock down a Malklaith or two, and put down a couple of Cobalt guys for sure.

I know Gaius likes to fly by the seat of his pants (ha ha ha see what I did there), but maybe now he'll appreciate my planning of a backup route for our deliveries.

So of course Gov Malklaith locks the place down, and the Cobalt guys sniffing around for us. Luckily I've got a friend <blank> who works in <blank>. What, like I'd tell you here? We get out ship moved just in the nick of time and remain on the down low for the time being. The Cobalt dimwits cruising the hanger bay left, but I heard a little later on through some back channel chatter that they remember me and Doc, and are extra motivated to beat our ass.

After a nice gunfight, there's nothing like a cold beer. Or five. Gaius took charge of that, and left us only marginally hungover as we contemplated our next move.

Well, this package has caused enough problems. Time to ditch it. Gaius's man-crush Choss has set us up at the swoop track for a drop. We're taking half the payment up front. Almost having your head blown off allows for some negotiating leverage. Once they confirm the package, Janus will drop the other half into a track account. Anonymous, untraceable, perfect.

Now if only everything worked out as planned.

 

 

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